The Doctor stood quietly behind the stage backdrop, a white ruff collar around his neck and a large animal skull in his hand. He had rummaged through the props store for a temporary neck brace for Shakespeare and was about to rejoin Martha at the front when he heard the great author's whispered compliments to her. The Doctor stilled, peeked behind the velvet material covering a door and saw Martha flushed with pleasure despite her obvious discomfort at being the center of attention.

The man never stops, the Doctor thought as he rolled his eyes, irritation and amusement mingled on his face forming a bewildered smirk. Shakespeare can hardly be blamed for trying; Martha Jones is a beautiful, intelligent woman worthy of every praise given to her, and William's obvious affection for his Companion would be entertaining if it weren't so -- unsettling. The Doctor felt slightly envious of Shakespeare's effortless way with words: his words left people like Martha breathless, while the Doctor's only managed to hurt and confuse. That, the Doctor began to believe, was his expertise.

He hadn't meant to hurt Martha with his remarks earlier that night. Martha had proven herself to be fearless and inquisitive, analytical yet not completely disbelieving -- traits that had propelled him into luring her in for one trip. He had been callous to compare her to Rose, when he knew that the woman in front of him was, in many ways, so very different from the woman he had lost months ago. The Carrionite stopped his heart and Martha made it beat again -- the symbolism in that is not lost on him.

A sudden silence fell around the theatre and the Doctor cleared his head with a quick shake. He strained to hear the words being mumbled, Martha's soft tones contrasting with Shakespeare's low, sultry voice. He didn't need to look to know what was going on, and a strange tightening of his throat caused him to take a few deep breaths to compose himself. Maybe his one heart momentarily failing had affected his brain; prolonged oxygen deprivation can make one act so strange. He waited, his fingers gripped the skull, but they itched to have someone else's scalp in its place. So very strange.

"But I've only just met you,"hesitation clear in Martha's voice. The Doctor grinned in the darkness.

"The Doctor may never kiss you; why not entertain a man who will?"Shakespeare answered seductively. The Doctor's eye twitched. He took a step forward, intent on causing a not-so-subtle interruption just when Martha's response made him choke down his laughter. Martha Jones, you're something else. The Doctor chuckled and pushed the door forward, now talking in light speed. His spirit felt lighter than it had ever been in months -- Martha had made sure of that. He can get used to this; now he's not so sure if he's willing to let her go just yet.

One more trip with Martha wouldn't hurt, he supposed. Just one more trip, then home. His pulse quickened at the lie.